The Difficult Patient: An Important Educational Need of Registered Nurses

Year: 1993

Author: Santamaria, Nick

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Caring for patients who display difficult behavioural characteristics in the general hospital setting has been well documented as a significant source of stress in nursing for more than thirty years. The current educational preparation of nurses at the undergraduate level provides little hope that this situation will change in the future.

This study describes the investigation of a group of practising general nurses aimed at determining their understanding, feelings and plans for caring for patients who exhibit difficult behavioural characteristics in the acute general hospital setting.

The responses of the nurses were compared to the approaches suggested by Individual Psychology (IP).

Significant levels of frustration and anger were reported by the nurses in dealing with this group of patients. No consistent means of identifying the goals of the difficult behaviour were demonstrated and the management approaches suggested were felt to be likely to cause the difficult behaviour to continue or increase.

Individual Psychology is proposed as a possible basis on which to develop educational programs to assist nurses in dealing with patients who display difficult interpersonal behavioural characteristics in the clinical environment.